Ohio officials say fentanyl pills being sold as lookalikes

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CLEVELAND (AP) - Authorities in northeast Ohio say they’re seeing a disturbing trend in the sale of the powerful painkiller fentanyl to people who possibly think they’re buying less-potent oxycodone.

Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH’-guh) County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said during a news conference Friday that 19 people died from fentanyl overdoses in January while 21 died from heroin. Gilson says the lookalike pills may have caused some of the fentanyl deaths.

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Statistics show heroin overdoses declined 8 percent in Cuyahoga County from 198 in 2014 to 183 last year, but fentanyl overdoes jumped from 37 in 2014 to 89 in 2015.

Gilson says fentanyl pills illicitly manufactured outside the U.S. have found their way into local markets using traditional drug routes. Fentanyl is typically many times more potent than heroin or oxycodone.